Not everything is black and white — just ask Joseph Fiennes. After the first trailer for the U.K. show Urban Myths landed Tuesday night, the Twittersphere exploded with commentary about whether he looked anything like Michael Jackson. As a quick refresh, Urban Myths describes itself as a tongue-in-cheek look back at celebrity history. Fiennes’s casting as the pop icon was first announced last year, in the thick of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy (oops), but the powers-that-be trudged ahead anyway. The result was this:
“At least if it was Meryl Streep, we’d be like, ‘Yeah, I mean, but she’s dope.’ But Joseph Fiennes? The guy who played Shakespeare? That’s like the whitest guy in history!” Trevor Noah joked when the news first broke. That commentary was nothing, however, compared to the firestorm on Twitter last night. Many users took a humorous approach to the loaded subject, but the underlying discomfort with assigning a white actor the role of an African-American singer was apparent.
Some took issue with Fiennes’s appearance.
Okay? But why does Joseph Fiennes as MJ look like the scarecrow you'd find at the edge of a pumpkin patch!? pic.twitter.com/OxFjP5SZQs
— Rosalina Watson † (@AboutRosalina) January 11, 2017
That looks like Lord Voldemort, NOT Michael Jackson. A mess. https://t.co/TpfBZn1dlm
— ???? (@buIIetproofsouI) January 10, 2017
Honestly I'm wheezing at Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson he looks like a historical battle reenactment fan who also owns a metal detector pic.twitter.com/gFwr4TyKNU
— ???????????? (@QueerDiscOx) January 11, 2017
For some, words weren’t enough.
— Tammy Tam (@nubiansweet) January 11, 2017
Me after I saw Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson pic.twitter.com/YuqgCXT0CI
— ????GEEK HOES???? (@beatrixforkiddo) January 11, 2017
Others wondered what had happened to allow this casting in the first place.
I don't understand why joseph fiennes even took that role. like how did he think "oh yah I'm right for this".
— sava (@savasavasava) January 11, 2017
Jemele Hill had a helpful suggestion for a future project.
They have Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson. Maybe Tom Hanks will play Berry Gordy in the next Motown movie.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) January 10, 2017
One pleaded for Jesus to intervene.
Jesus take the wheel and crash this car. pic.twitter.com/5BqYJWStRC
— Lauren Warren (@iamlaurenp) January 10, 2017
And others had one simple, but completely impossible, request.
Can I pls unsee Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson
— ree (@riannaej) January 11, 2017
Stockard Channing and Brian Cox also appear in the segment, as Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando. No one so far has taken aim at either of them, but we’re wondering how successful the series will be. Odds seem good that, at the very least, some viewers will tune in to get a glimpse of Fiennes as Jackson, if only to be able to complain on Twitter.